1995 Mercury Mystique Transmission

A friends' mother has a 1995 Mystique for sale that she bought used four years ago. I was looking at it today and commented to my buddy that besides
having such high mileage (200,000 + kms), that the car was in pretty decent shape and very clean. His mother is only asking $1100 for it, the car is inspected until Sept. 2006, it has AC that works, some power options and the interior is spotless. He said the only thing wrong with the car, and it had done this since his mother bought it, is the following.
If you accelerate heavily, the transmission will not shift out of first gear. It will shift if you let up on the throttle, but if you floor the throttle pedal, it refuses to shift from its current gear. It will redline until the throttle is backed off, and then it upshifts. I didn't ask to take a drive in the car, but the way he described the problem, you almost have to drive it as if it were a manual transmission, listening to the revs of the engine and letting up on the throttle when it should automatically shift gears. He said the transmission does not slip or make any odd noises and also said that if you floor it on pavement, the transmission will spin the tires. It also downshifts correctly, and he said it has been doing this since she bought the car, she just learned to let up on the throttle. So, it doesn't sound like anything mechanically related is at fault. To me, it sounds like a faulty VSS or some other type of electronic sensor or component. Once it reaches its overdrive top gear, it drives perfectly.
If anyone who has come across some or all of these symptons on either a Mystique or Contour and knows the solution, I would appreciate hearing from you. BTW, this is a 4 cyl., 2.0L engine.
Thanks Sharky
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[This followup was posted to alt.autos.ford and a copy was sent to the cited author.]
says...

First, check the forums at www.contour.org. You might find answers there.
I used to have a V6 Mystique, also 1995. The only time it would not upshift from first was if you put it '1'. I'm not certain about the 4 cylinder's speeds, but with the V6, the 1-2 shift was somewhere around 30-35(? it's been a few years), and the 2-3 was about 70.
I don't believe there is a mechanical kick-down. It's all electronic. It's possible the Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) is not quite right. I assume by 'redline' you mean it's actually bouncing around the rev limiter?
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I haven't driven the car myself to know its symptons myself, I am just going by my friends description and what his mother has told him. When I say redline, I mean that it will idle right up until its highest RPM reading on the tachometer and stay that way until you back off on the throttle or until the rev limiter kicks in. I never thought to ask him whether there is a difference if you manually shift it from L1 up to Drive, but I will ask him again today when I see him. I may tell him to pull the TPS and check it if it is easy enough to remove. I know when I had my 1990 Escort, the throttle was acting up and when I pulled the TPS to check it, the end of the rod that went into the throttle body had been so deteriorated, the tab on the very end of the rod was so worn, there wasn't enough left on it to turn the spring inside the TPS assembly.
Thanks for the reply, and I will post back if we figure out what is wrong with it. Sharky
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says...

I should also mention that when you are in Park or Neutral, it will be rev limited to about 4000rpm instead of the normal redline. That is completely normal and designed to protect the transmission from a full- throttle drop-shift.
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I was talking to my buddy again today and not thinking about it the first time, asked him whether he or his mother had had the codes read from the computer, thinking it might have picked up a bad sensor or whatnot. He said yes that it was connected to a machine and no codes were found. The mechanic, who happened to be her boyfriend at the time, said more than likely he would have to keep the car for at least a day and run a comb through it, which she never had the time to do. He mentioned that it could be something as simple as a leaky vaccuum line but that it did not seem to be something mechanically related to the inner workings of the tranny, otherwise it never would have lasted 4 years that way.
Another possibility that my friend brought up and that we both thought was quite realistic was a bad engine or transmission mount. He said the last time he had the hood open while the car was running, he noticed the engine moved a good two to three inches back and forth just sitting there idling. I told him the next chance we get, we should check it because that could interfere with the shifting linkage.
Anyway, the next time I happen to be over there, I plan on taking a lot better look at the car. Still appreciate the replies though.
Sharky
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